Cowley, Abraham . The Third Part of the Works of Mr. Abraham Cowley
Being his Six Books of Plants
Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library
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AT last when Myrrh had wip'd her od'rous tears,
Putting aside her leaves, her Face and Head she rears.
Then she began, but blush'd, and stopp'd anon,
Nor cou'd she be entreated to go on.
So a dry Pump at first will hardly go,
From which a River by and by will flow.
'Tis known, the female Tribe, or all that live,
Above the rest is far more talkative.
And that a Plant, who was a Maid before,
Speaks faster much than all the rest and more.
Her story therefore gently she begins,
And with her Art upon the Audience wins. [Latin: 1000]
Her Wars with unchast Love she reckon'd o'r; 1040
For fear of doing ill, what ills she bore:
She told, how oft her breast her hands had try'd
To stab, whilst chast fair Myrrha might ha' dy'd. [image]
How long and oft unequally with Love,
Who even Goddesses subdu'd, she strove.
And many things besides, which I'll not name,
Since Ovid with more wit has said the same.
Then of the Wombs intolerable pains
(Sh'ad felt them) sadly she, 'tis said, complains.
Had I an hundred fluent Womens Tongues,
Or made of sturdy Oak, a pair of Lungs,
The kinds and forms, and names of cruel fate,
And monstrous shapes I hardly cou'd relate.
What meant the Gods, Lifes native Seat, to fill
With such a numerous Host, so arm'd to kill?
What is it, Pleasure! guards Man's happiness,
If thy chief City, Pain, thy Foe, possess.
But me my Laurel told; then most she rail'd,
When the sad Fits o' th'Mother she bewail'd. [Latin: 1020]
Woe to the bodies wretched Town (said she) 1060
When the wombs Fort contains the Enemy!
Thence baneful vapours ev'ry way they throw,
Which rout the conquer'd Soul where e'r they go.
The troops of flying Spirits they destroy,
As stenches from Avernus Birds annoy. 121
If they the Stomach seize, the Appetite's gone,
And tasks design'd for veins lie by half done.
No Meats it now endures, much less requires,
And the crude Kitchin cools for want of fires.
If they the Heart invade, that's walls they shake,
And in the vital work confusion make;
New waves they thither bring, but those the vein,
Which Vena Cava's called, bears back again.
The Arteries by weak pulsings notifie,
Or else by none, the Soul's then passing by.
By that black Cloud all joy's extinguish'd quite,
And hopes, that make the mind look gay and bright.
So when grim, Stygian shades, they say, appear,
The Candles tremble and go out for fear. [Latin: 1040]
Grief, fear, and hatred of the light invade 1080
Their Heart, the Soul a Scene of trouble's made.
Then straight the jaws themselves the Ill
With deadly, strangling vapours strives to fill.
T'Æthereal Air it never shews desire,
But Salamander-like lives all on fire:
Sometimes these restless Plagues the Head too seize,
And rifle all the Souls rich Palaces.
In barbarous triumph led, then Reason stands,
Hoodwink'd and manacled her eyes and hands.
For the poor wretch a merry madness takes,
And her sad sides with doleful laughter shakes.
Her Dreams (in vain awake) she tells, and those,
If no body admire, amaz'd she shews.
She fears, or threatens ev'ry thing she spies;
A piteous, she, and dreadful Object, lies.
One seems to rave, and from her sparkling Eyes
Fierce fire darts forth; another throbs and cries.
some Deaths exactest Image seizes, so
That sleep compar'd to that like Life wou'd show. [Latin: 1060]
A solid dulness all the senses keeps 1100
Lock'd up; no Soul of Trees more soundly sleeps.
Her breath, if any from her nostrils go,
The Down from Poppy tops wou'd hardly blow.
If you one dead with her compar'd, you'd say,
Two dead ones there, or two Hysterick lay.
But then ('tis strange, and yet we must believe
What we from long experience receive)
Under her Nose strong-smelling Odours lay,
The other vapours these will chase away.
burn Partridge feathers, hair of Man or Beast,
Horns, leather, warts, that Horses legs molest;
All these are good; but what strange accident
first found them out, or cou'd such Cures invent?
Burn Oil, that Nature from hard Rocks distills,
And Sulphur, which all things with Odours fills.
To which the stinking Assa you may add,
And Oil which from the Beavers stones is had.
Through Pores, Nerves, Arteries, and all they go,
And throng t'invade the labouring Womb below. [Latin: 1080]
But that each Avenue, which upward lies, 1120
With mounds and strong-built Rampires fortifies.
Tne being contracted to a narrower place
(For force decase spread in too wide a space)
No humours foul or vapours these must stay,
But out it purges them the lower way.
On Forein parts now no assaults she makes,
But care of her domestick safety takes.
Carthage to Hannibal now sends no supply,
To break the force of distant Italy.
When from their walls with horror they descry
The threatning Roman Darts and Eagles fly.
This for the Nose; the Womb then you must please
With such sweet Odours as the Gods appease.
With Cinnamon, and Goat-bread, Ladanon.
With healing Balsam and my oily Gum.
Civet, and Musk, and Amber too apply,
(Scarce yet well known to humane industry)
With all that my rich, native Soil supplies,
Such fumes as from the Phoenix Nest arise. [Latin: 1100]
Nor fear from Gods to take their Frankincense, 1140
In such a pious case, 'tis no offence.
Then shalt thou see the limbs faint motions make,
A certain sign, that now the Soul's awake.
Then will the Guts with an unusual noise,
The Enemy o'rthrown, seem to rejoice.
Bloud will below the secret passage stain,
And Arteries recruited beat again.
Oft, glad to see the light, themselves the Eyes
Lift up; the Face returning purple dies;
One jaw from t'other with a groan retires,
And the Disease it self, like Life, expires.
Tell me, sweet Odours, tell me, what have you
With parts so distant from the Nose to do?
Or what have you, ill smells, so near the Nose
To do, since that and you are mortal Foes?
And why dost thou, abominamble stench!
Upon remote Dominions so intrench?
Say, by what secret force you sling your Darts,
Whom from your Bow, the Nose, such distance parts.
For some believe, that to the brain alone 1160
They fly, through ways, which in the head are known; [Latin: 1120]
And that the Brain to the related womb
Sends (good and bad) all smells, that to it come.
The Womb too oft rejoyces for That's sake,
And when That's griev'd, does all its griefs partake.
The Womb's Orestes, Pylades the Brain,
And what to one, to th'other is a pain.
I don't deny the native Sympathy,
And like respects, in which these parts agree.
Each its conception has, and each its birth,
And both their Off-springs like the Sire, come forth.
Still to produce both have a constant vein,
And their streight bosoms mighty things contain.
Much I omit in both; but know, that This
O' th'Body, That o' th'Soul the Matrix is.
But th'womb has this one proper faculty,
Its actions oft from Head and Nose are free.
Oft when it strives to break its bonds in vain
(And often nought its fury can contain)
A sweet Perfume apply'd (unknown to th'Nose) 1180
Does with a grateful glew its body close. [Latin: 1140]
But when oppress'd with weight the womb falls down
(As sometimes it, when weak, does with its own)
With dreadful weapons arm'd a noisom smell
Meets it, and upward quickly does repel.
So when th'Helvetians their own Land forsook,
(People which in their Neighbours terror strook)
A stronger Foe, their wandering to restrain,
To their old quarters beat 'em back again.
Here different reasons different Authors show,
But none worth speaking of, I'm sure, you know.
What can I add? You, Learned President, please
To bid me speak; the case says, hold your peace.
Yet you I must obey; Heav'n is so kind
To let us seek that truth we cannot find.
This truth must be i' th'wells dark bottom sought,
Pardon me, if I make an heavy draught.
You see the wondrous Wars and Leagues of Things, [image]
From whence the worlds harmonious consort springs.
This he that thinks from th'Elements may be had, 1200
Is a grave Sot, and studiously mad. [Latin: 1160]
Here many causes branch themselves around,
But to 'em all one onely Root is found.
For those, which mortals the four Elements call, 1220
In the worlds fabrick are not first of all.
Treasures in them wise Nature laid, as store,
Ready at hand, of things that were before.
Whence she might Principles draw for her use,
And mixtures new eternally produce.
Infinite seeds in those small bodies lie
To us, but numbred by the Deity.
Nor is the heat to Fire more natural,
Nor coldness more to Waters share does fall,
Than either bitter, sweet, or white or black,
Or any smells, that Noses e'r attack.
Our purging or astringent quality
Have proper points of matter, where they lie.
With Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Heav'n all things bore,
Why do I faintly speak? They were before.
For what Earth, Air, Fire, Water now we call,
Are Compounds from the first Original. [Latin: 1180]
For -- But a sudden fright her senses shock'd,
And stopt her speech; she heard the gate unlock'd.
And Rue from far the Gardener saw come in, [image]
Trembling, as she an Aspen leaf had been.
(For Rue, a sovereign Plant to purge the Eyes 122
Remotest Objects easily descries)
She softly whisper'd, Hence make hast away;
Here's Robert come, make hast, why do we stay?
Day was not broken, but 'twas almost light
And Luna swiftly rowl'd the wheeling Night;
Nor was the Fellow us'd so soon to rise,
But him a sudden chance did then surprize.
His Wife in pangs of Child-bed loudly roar'd,
And gentle Juno's present aid implor'd.
But he who plants that in his Garden grew,
Than forty Juno's, of more value knew,
Came thither Sowbread all in hast to gather,
That he with greater ease might prove a Father.
Soon as they saw the Man, straight up they got, 1240
With gentle hast and stood upon the spot, [Latin: 1200]
When briefly Mugwort; I this Court adjourn;
What we have left we'll do at our return.
Without tumultuous noise away they fled,
And every Plant crept to her proper Bed.
The End of the Second Book.
 A noisom Lake, over which if Birds flew, they were often choked with the stench of it.
 The name of the Gardener of the Physick-Garden in Oxford [whose actual name was "Bobart," not "Robert"].